Modern Day Robespierres of the Right

Sunday evening, I received a text message from a number I did not recognize. It read: "Ur book sucked btw u measly little faggot f---! [ed: the original used the full, vulgar word that we prefer not to reprint.] I despise u and all that u stand for! VOMIT!" Having just returned from seeing "Julie & Julia" at the movies, I looked up from this startling message, turned to my St. Bernard, Ambrose, who happened to be standing there and said, "Tres charmant!" Thirty minutes later, a second, similar message came, this time accusing me of being a carpetbagger.

The experience of having your privacy invaded is never pleasant. Neither is dealing with cowards, which is the word I have always applied to those who make a charge anonymously. Cowardly and, in this instance, creepy, because someone had to make an effort to get my cellphone number. As for the criticism of my book, I prefer the judgment of the Religion BookLine at Publisher’s Weekly which gave it a starred review.


It seems that some conservatives in America are unhinged in a way I find difficult to recall. (Yes, I am assuming no liberal would take issue with "all I stand for.") To be clear, there are thoughtful conservatives who quite rightly raise questions about the policies being pursued by the Obama administration, many of which I have defended in these pages and which I foretold in my book. You should always read anything that Peter Berkowitz writes, for example. You will not always agree with him, but you will always learn something from him. Ross Douthat and Michael Gerson are always a good read.

Then there are the modern day Robespierres who show up to events with the President carrying a firearm. Last week, a man stood outside a hall in Portsmouth, N.H. with a handgun strapped to his leg and a sign that read "Time to water the tree of liberty!" Yesterday, in Phoenix, a man showed up to the venue where the President was about to give a speech carrying an assault weapon. They say that they merely are exercising their Second Amendment rights, and so they are. But, that does not really answer the question: Why show up at an event with the President with an assault rifle? Surely, the intent is to intimidate, to frighten. I certainly got frightened looking at the man in Phoenix: Even if he had no malicious intent, and was fully trained in firearm safety, what if someone crazy knocks him over the head and takes the weapon?

I do not mean to equate my cell phone incident with the chilling sight in Phoenix, although curiously, the man with the gun also refused to provide his name. Cowards can carry big guns too I guess. But, surely, the desire to harass and intimidate is the same, and it is a desire that emerges only from the heart of someone who has lost their love for democracy which depends upon disagreement and discussion and debate for its health.

The love of democracy also should keep anyone who is intellectually honest from simple, or complex, lies. Yet, there is the so-called "American Principles Project" founded by Princeton Professor Robert George, engaging in rank dishonesty about the health care debate. In one posting, intimidation combines with deceit in a video that is, well, unprincipled. Others merely rise to the level of tendentiousness. Professor George, who has produced precisely one significant book in his career, should spend less time trying to advance his political positions and more time doing scholarship. There, unlike the blogosphere, he will have to meet standards of excellence set by his peers. Now, his American Principles Project has about as much credibility as Glenn Beck.

So, here is a challenge to my conservative friends: Police Your Own! I have never paid a dime to see a flick by Michael Moore or Oliver Stone and I have not been shy about calling to account fellow liberals who cross the lines of decency. Thoughtful conservatives need to stand up and, whatever their reservations about the President’s health care proposals, insist that their side puts down the lies, the intimidation and, most especially, the firearms. It is not "charmant." It is dangerous.


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9 years 5 months ago
Thanks for this brave post. Sometimes it seems there are only haters in the Catholic blogoshere. Some of these folks forgot they were Christians, I guess. The problem is that the Republican Party so thoroughly preempted and then manipulated the abortion issue, it appears that many to whom this is an admirably important issue forgot about the issue and became party flag-wavers instead. Non-believers see and hear the hate coming from the religious community in America and think to themselves, "Hah, another reason I'm glad I stopped going to Church !". It is wrong, but it is understandable. No one wants to be around haters except other haters.
9 years 5 months ago
Documenting years of death threats and violent imagery directed against President Bush. I look forward to your post on this.
9 years 5 months ago
You are right! Putting aside the fact that the Secret Service arrested people at Bush speeches who had t-shirts with symbols or messages they didn't like, this is just plain criminal. It is both intimidating and a danger to the public and a message by the authorities of some sort that these things will be allowed to happen. Is this also racist? I think so; veiled racism disguised under the shock issues. These people should have been and now should be arrested for endangerment of the public. This would not conflict with the Arizona law allowining open carry of guns anymore than driving your car into the opera house would interfere with your right to drive a car. This should be done now and these people disciplined severly. What person is going to allow a child to attend a speech by the president or a rally knowing this is going on? What person is going to attend any sort of public rally or forum knowing this intimidation looms large? The Obama administration is making a big liberal mistake if they don't insist that the people carrying out those actions are arrested and have a day in court! And, the authorities responsible need to pay for their inactions!
9 years 5 months ago
For the record, Michael, I enjoy your blog posts. I usually agree with what you stand for, and I always respect it.
And I'm going to order your book right now. God bless.
9 years 5 months ago
So....Sean, are you a Democrat first and Catholic second, or a Catholic first and a citizen of decided political views (all of which you are capable of defending without vitriol and ad hominem) second?
Earlier you declared that you have never voted Republican in your life. Obviously this would imply that you either abstained from voting on a national ticket, or you voted for obviously pro-abort candidates up to and including for Obama (the most vociferously pro-abort candidate in history). I find that intriguing on a number of levels, but primarily from a Catholic perspective whereby one may not accept an intrinsic evil - like abortion - in order to achieve some less fundamental good as someone's campaign promise to 'help the poor' with yet another government run boondoggle.
It would appear that loyalty to a party is more important than loyalty to the Church, or to REASON. Why the insistence that ''conservatives bad....liberals good'' without evidence? Which political party has run most major cities for decades? And in which cities do ''the poor'' suffer the most? High crime, crumbling infrastructure, failing schools.... all with one particular political party in total control of the budget, the local ordinances, the civil life of society.... and yet, who do YOU hold responsible for those locales' failures to give dignity to ''the poor''? Oh that's right, those blasted ''conservatives'' whom you don't appear to know personally but do believe you can ascribe motives to.
If Democratic, liberal, progressive Catholics are the bees knees, then one would expect enormous quantities of their own private AND public funds to have been cleverly, if not brilliantly budgetted and employed for the benefit of the ''poor'' for at least the last 40 years. After all, we are told that Democrats and Liberals in general are much smarter, much more humane, and far more caring than Republicans and Conservatives. And yet, the real-life evidence from a dozen major cities that have been run by liberal democrats for decades continues to point to the opposite. So it would appear your political allegiance is a ''faith based initiative'' immune to evidence.
Who then is being irrational, meanspirited, and downright ''un-American'' in today's contentious political enviroment? I would humbly submit, not Republican Conservative Catholics. Not Robby George. Not Pro-life activists. Not the homeschoolers. Not the elderly attending Town-Halls...
I urge you Sean, open your eyes. One can be Catholic and not owned by the Democrats (or the Republicans!) One can be an honorable citizen without belonging to a political party! One's goodness doesn't consist in one's "positions" on issues, but on one's ACTIONS. Claiming to be "for the poor" is very different from actually "helping the poor".
9 years 5 months ago
All this august commentary from the man who says his hand will fall off if he ever votes for a Republican.
9 years 5 months ago
Yes, the book looks good ! I'll need to get it...
Thanks again. Keep up the good work.
9 years 5 months ago
The people showing up at President Obama's events with guns are elements of a slowly building rightwing temper tantrum.  It's bad enough to have a loaded weapon on you, but to be "displaying" is stunning childishness.  But weren't the guns inevitable following the shouting down of townhall speakers, screaming and waving racist posters?
9 years 5 months ago
Is Robert P. George really the author of "precisely one significant book"?  Well, it depends on your definition of "significant."  Here is a list of his book-length writings.  I report, you decide. 
Natural Law Theory: Contemporary Essays, 1992. [url=]ISBN 0-19-823552-6[/url]
Making Men Moral, 1995. [url=]ISBN 0-19-826024-5[/url]
Natural Law and Moral Inquiry: Ethics, Metaphysics, and Politics in the Work of Germain Grisez, 1998. [url=]ISBN 0-87840-674-3[/url]
In Defense of Natural Law, 1999. [url=]ISBN 0-19-826771-1[/url]
The Autonomy of Law: Essays on Legal Positivism, 1999. [url=]ISBN 0-19-826790-8[/url]
Natural Law and Public Reason, 2000. [url=]ISBN 0-87840-766-9[/url]
Great Cases in Constitutional Law, 2000. [url=]ISBN 0-691-04952-1[/url]
The Clash of Orthodoxies, 2001. [url=]ISBN 1-882926-62-5[/url]
Natural Law, Liberalism, and Morality 2001. [url=]ISBN 0-19-924300-X[/url]
Constitutional Politics: Essays on Constitution Making, Maintenance, and Change, 2001 [url=]ISBN 0-691-08869-1[/url]
The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, And Morals, 2006 [url=]ISBN 1-890626-64-3[/url]
Body-Self Dualism, 2007 [url=]ISBN 9780521882484[/url]
Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, 2008 [url=]ISBN 0385522827[/url]


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